PITTSBURG — John Kutz has been refurbishing buildings in Pittsburg for decades. He said he’s found all sorts things in old buildings, however, his newest project at 602 N. Broadway, has had several unexpected gems.
The building will hold 12 apartments upstairs, called the Leland Lofts. Shortly after the upstairs is completed they will be able to finish the refurbished commercial space downstairs, and both spaces have already revealed details about their past.
Kutz has stripped a 100 year old building to its studs, preserving the historical details he could and finding more underneath years of remodels.
“I’ve worked on well over a dozen buildings around Pittsburg, and own several,” Kutz said. “This one though gave us some great details that we did not expect.”
One of those details is a huge ghost mural from the Pittsburg Headlight, a newspaper operating in Pittsburg around the turn of the century.
“We were very happy to find that mural,” Kutz said “It’s always great to find something like that behind the plaster.”
The project has also found a fireplace with vintage tile that dates to sometime in the early 1900s as well as other period details. All of which will be kept for the future. The project was so important to Kutz that he had his crew work by hand on every brick in the building.
“Each and every brick in this place has been touched by my crew,” Kutz said. “It is not good enough to just do it, we really want to do it right in a way that honors the past while bringing in modern comforts like insulation and air conditioning.”
Kutz said that the restoration process is a bug that he caught which has only grown with time.
“It has always been a passion of mine, now it’s safe to say it’s an obsession,” he said.
For Kutz the project has been one of giving back as well as discovery. He said he and his crew often “recycle more than any sane person should”, not only reusing materials when possible but also donating them to good causes.
He said saving historical buildings like this one are really the important thing.
‘My mantra has always been that isn’t for my generation, this is for my kids and grandchild,” Kutz said. “So when I do a building I want to do it right.
We do the safety things right, so that others generations from now can enjoy these pieces of history too.”
Kutz is strict about safety as a former building inspector. He will be adding a room in the basement where residents, and in an emergency neighboring buildings, can shelter during a storm.
‘It won’t be a certified storm shelter, but it will be a safe area for most kinds of weather,” Kutz said.
He said most people see these historic buildings and appreciate the beauty, but it’s just as important they be safe.
Kutz is helped with the project by support from the City of Pittsburg. The Economic Development Advisory Committee provided some funding for life safety improvements, like sprinklers and fire escapes.
“We’ve been working on this project for over two years, when it’s done I think it really is going to be something to be proud of,” Kutz said.
Kutz said he expects the apartments to be done in December.